Got Cancer? Yeah, You Ain’t So Tough.

gladiatorI am not a warrior.

My attitude didn’t kick cancer’s butt. The chemotherapy and radiation did.

Four years ago today, I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and now, I am cancer-free. I underwent six rounds of chemo, two of them five-day infusions of some of the biggest, baddest chemo drugs, in the hospital. Also, five weeks of radiation when the biggest, baddest chemo drugs left behind a sliver of the 6-inch tumor in my chest.

My go-fight-win attitude didn’t make my cancer go away, but here’s what it did do:

  • It got me to leave a local hospital that was working to start chemo for what they thought was Hodgkin’s (a.k.a. the “good” cancer), when really, I had the “bad” cancer.
  • It made other people feel more comfortable, because I could laugh about my situation, most notably with a Wacky Wig Contest in which friends and family sent me ridiculous wigs to cover my bald head. Then, the Internet voted on them.
  • It made my illness easier on my children, who continued to look to me for emotional support and a sense of normal (all while the entire house was under construction at the same time.)
  • It got my butt out of bed, so that the contractors wouldn’t stumble upon a bald, drooling woman on their way to tile the master bathroom.
  • It gave me hope.

But I was lucky. I had a “curable” cancer and proven therapies available from one of the best hospitals in New York City, if not in the country. I had good health insurance, thanks to my husband’s job. I had a neighborhood of people who cooked for us and took my kids to swim practice and for playdates. And I had a supportive and loving family. If I didn’t go-fight-win with all that on my side, what a shame that would have been.

And yet, I also cried and worried and feared that I wouldn’t still be here today. I suffered from agonizing bone pain that dropped me to my knees now and then — this for a woman who’d had natural childbirth. I’d catch a glimpse of my two sons running by the window as they played ball outside, and I’d pray that I would be here long enough to see them grow up.

At those moments, I wasn’t so tough at all. I wasn’t a warrior. I was just a parent with cancer. And you know what? That’s perfectly okay.

No, I am not a warrior. I am a survivor, and when it comes to beating cancer, attitude isn’t everything, nor is it the only thing.

Kicking cancer’s ass? That’s the best thing.

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